Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Friday, March 19, 2010
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Monday, March 15, 2010
New Post Mostly About Movies
“I Don’t Want To Sleep Alone“ is the first film I’ve seen by Ming-Liang Tsai who has a following mostly among the film festival and art house crowd. Filmed in his exotic home city of Kuala Lumpur (a place I will not be visiting ever) it concerns several very down and out people surviving in the run down part of town, that is dank, dark, polluted, smelly and hot. The three main characters are a homeless man, who is badly beaten one night and is taken in by a kind compassionate construction worker who nurses him back to health, shares his dirty bug infested mattress with him and falls in love or lust with him. The worker who lives in a run down unfinished place of a building also houses a female owner of a nearby rundown cafe (everything in the film is rundown including the people) and a waitress who works in the cafe both of whom are taking care of the owner’s near dead comatose son? both the homeless man and the son? are played by the same actor Lee Kang-Sheng. They bath the son?, give him rub downs with greasy ointments, and at one point attempt to masturbate him for what reason I can only imagine. The two females also have a strong attraction to the homeless man, and these 4 simple people commence on a very complicated relationship. The film has maybe 15 lines of dialogue, no score except for the music that is heard on radios which is a mixture of several nationalities and is used as subtle comments on the (non) action of the film. Nearly silent and slow the film is like a dream, or maybe a nightmare depending on one’s take on this sort of reality and I could easily understand the unease and boredom that many viewers might have with this 2 hour film. I for one was totally fascinated and drawn in to this strange film. The cinematography is beautiful with bright garish colors and carefully composed scenes that look like photographs There are recurring scenes of a dirty mattress being moved around the city and a harsh yellow haze fills the air from forest fires burning in neighboring nearby Sumatra which causes the characters to wear strange face masks even when they attempt to have sex.. A challenging and compelling work of art.
Well I finally saw Avatar today, and thought it was spectacular and beautiful thanks to the special effects and the 3-D, and I didn't get a headache or throw up so that's good. The film is not so much directed as it is constructed sort of like the most expensive toy in the world, and we're invited to play. That said if it wasn't for the 3-D I would have found the movie pretty ordinary and I don't think it's going to work as a 2-D film. The characters and the story are strictly cardboard but I did keep the glasses. A good way to kill 3 hours and get out of the rain. Didn’t think it would win a Best Picture Oscar.
Saw “A View From The Bridge" a few weeks ago which I enjoyed very much. The play is of it's time, and Miller uses the political landscape of the 50's very discreetly to surround his story of jealousy, revenge and forbidden sexual longing. I wanted to see this production because of Liev Schreiber who has long been one of my favorite actors, not too mention that he is unbelievably sexy and will never be a movie star. He is terrific in the lead, and Scarlett Johansson was also pretty good, I wasn't knocked out by her though. As usual with the old theatres, they are beautiful but so uncomfortable, the theatre patrons of the 1920's must have been very little people, and I don't know how tall and large people manage those tiny teeny seats. I'm short and I even have problems finding comfort in them.
The new Israeli movie Ajami that was nominated for a best foreign film Oscar, but lost to a film that no one ever heard of follows the template set out a few years back in Amores perros and later in City of God, both of which I think are better films. Just switch the neighborhoods from Mexico City and Rio de Janeiro for the neighborhood in Jaffa, known as Ajami, fill it with the usual tough guys and drug dealers, throw in a Romeo and Juliet type romance stir well and you have Ajami. Co Written and directed by Scandar Copti, an Israeli Arab (who also plays an supporting role), and Yaron Shani, who is Jewish and made up of a cast of mostly nonprofessional actors. The film follows the low lives and criminals of Ajami as they deal with acts of violence, revenge, drug deals gone bad, and corrupt police, except now they’re Palestinians and Jews with a few Christians thrown in doing the dirty deeds. Told in chapters with plots and characters that go back and forth in time, with all the prerequisite coincidences that movies like this usually have. The story ends in a way that you don’t exactly expect, but unfortunately the film itself has an all too familiar ring to it. You can wait for this one to come out on Dvd.
I don't know why the critic on the New York Times got so twisted out of shape over the remake of The 39 Steps that was shown on PBS a few weeks or so ago. True it's not Hitchcock but what is, and besides we already have a version of the story by Hitchcock, so let someone else try it. This one was charming and fun with two attractive players, nice production design and it was brisk. I thought the homage to North By Northwest charming and there were enough differences in this version to keep me entertained. Ialso I heard that Robert Towne is doing a version. It has legs as they say.
“ In The Loop” is one of the funniest films I've seen a long time. I kept putting off seeing it, politics, war ugh who needs it, but if you haven't seen it yet do. This is satire at its best with a wonderful script both hysterically funny and like all good satire dark beneath the surface. With a great cast of British and American actors mostly unknown (to me anyway) and with standout performances from Mimi Kennedy as an under secretary of state, (her tooth scene will have you rolling) and Peter Capaldi (why this guy didn't get a supporting actor nomination is a mystery to me) as a British press secretary from hell. There is also good work from the most famous member of the cast James Gandolfini as a gentle general with a bite. The film itself is nothing great to look at but it's the script baby it's the script.
When will Hollywood finally get it, and stop taking perfectly good, and sometimes great movies and remaking them into sub standard popcorn
garbage. One of the latest films to get the take down is the excellent 1974 New York City thriller The Taking of Pelham 1,2,3 that has been recently redone by the hack action director Tony Scott, who by the way is the brother of the so much better Ridley. Maybe Tony was opted because the two don’t share the talent trait. I mean this guy has not made one decent film. So we all know the story. A subway train is highjacked. In the old version the leader of the gang was played by Robert Shaw who is very threatening and thrilling, In this new version
the leader of the pack is played by a bloated and lazy John Travolta who is about as threatening as Zazu Pitts and who pits his limited intelligence against a bloated and lazy Denzel Washington taking over the role that Walter Matthau played so well and memorably in the old
version. Denzel is under investigation for taking bribes, so he has been demoted to the job of dispatcher, and gets to deal with the demented Travolta. Scott goes in for his usual style which consists of high, computer generated images and oh yes lots of car crashes and noise all in lieu of good storytelling and intelligent direction. The screenplay if one could call it that is by Brian Helgeland who did the screenplay for L.A. Confidential and Mystic River but since then judging by his recent credits is now busy writing garbage films like this one. Scott’s fast moving runaway subway car all gleaming and new is packed with hostage riders who show about as much fear and tension as normal subway riders on the R train do on a daily basis. The film also features James Gandolfini playing the mayor of the city in what might be his worst performance and the always wonderful Luis Guzmán who is totally wasted as one of Travolta’s fellow high jackers. The only actor who comes off without smelling of doody is John Turturro who plays a NYPD Emergency Service Unit Lt. Skip this ride and take the bus instead.
These are two films that have some things in common, but take a different approach to the theme of violence in prisons, (society) . One is overtly political the other is a throwback to the Warner prison movies of the 1930’s. I don’t really know who I can recommend these recently seen brutal & brave films about criminal...s, political prisoners and prisons, and general society at large as they are both upsetting films, graphic, grisly and gorgeous. Bronson gave me a near heart attack and at the same time lulled me to sleep. This stylized film biography is the story of Michael Peterson who in prison changed his name to Bronson in honor of you guessed it Charles Bronson. Bronson is still in prison serving over 34 years with most of that time in solitary confinement mainly for crimes he committed while in prison. Go figure. To me the guy is a bona fide nut case, that’s the only reason I can come up for this life gone very bad. He also spent time in insane asylums and in the film these scenes are some the most hair raising fictional sequences I’ve seen of this type of hell on earth. Nicolas Winding Refn who did 2 films of the complicated violent trilogy Pusher a few years ago which is an epic of petty gangsters in Copenhagen of all places directed Bronson which thankfully is short, in English and with a mind boggling performance by the young British actor Tom Hardy who went the way of Robert DeNiro in transforming himself for the role. The film reminds me of “Chopper” an Australian film about another brutal criminal that was the big breakthrough for Eric Bana who has been making films ever since. I watched some of the interview with Hardy on the dvd extras, and you can see how much he changed himself for the role. So instead of Bronson finding God in prison which is what happens to some prisoners, Bronson finds art, and maybe this is just as bad or good depending how one feels about God and art.. In any case the film is a little too stylized for me, but the performance of Hardy’s is simply amazing he blows you away. He’s both repulsive and hot and sexy at the same time reminding me of some of my old lovers. This is a complicated performance and easily one of the best I’ve seen all year. The other prison film I saw is “Hunger” made by the the black British artist, filmmaker and darling of the international art scene Steve McQueen. This too is a striped down film, but not stylized like Bronson. McQueen’s surprisingly moderate style tells the story of IRA political prisoner Bobby Sands and his horrible ordeal in prison and his hunger strike which not surprisingly led to his death. I didn’t care for the much talked about 20 minute long shot dialogue scene between Sands and a priest but I guess that was the artist in McQueen directing. This is gritty stuff maybe too gritty (Bronson is also) but with a superb and again transforming performance by Michael Fassbender, a young handsome German-Irish actor who had a small but attention grabbing performance in Inglorious Bastards. Fassbender who lost lots of weight for this film brings a hefty presence to this role and he gives a star making performance which might be his downfall. I hope not. .
Tuesday, March 09, 2010
Saturday, March 06, 2010
Ruth Kligman 1930-2010
Monday, March 01, 2010
I knew two people who were murdered. One I didn’t know all that well, and the other I knew very well having lived with him for two years when I first moved to New York in 1967. I myself was almost murdered in the fall of 1981, and I’ve written about it on this blog. you can read it here. http://wwwirajoelcinemagebooks.blogspot.com/2006_08_01_archive.html
If you like. It’s a terrible thing to have known people who were murdered; it’s a dread that sometimes creeps up on me still even after all these years.It’s ghost like and creepy. I think about their last minutes and the pain they must have felt as their lives were violently taken away from them. The first person I knew was an art critic, uproarious and outrageous who was back in the day a very promiscuous gay man. I met him when I was lovers with Manuel and we would attend the art critic’s cocktail parties that he would have often in his large upper West Side apartment. I didn’t really care much for him, he was a big gossip and thought nothing about writing terrible things in alternative newspapers like the East Village Other about art world people who considered him a friend. But this guy couldn’t have any friends, just acquaintances because he was just too untrustworthy and superficial even though he was a thoughtful and well respected art critic. He once wrote about me and Manuel and about a drunken fight we once had at his apartment and after that we stopped seeing him. He was loud and vulgar and he made me feel very uncomfortable when I was around him. He was murdered in Puerto Rico in 1980; stabbed 102 times by what police said was a pick up gone bad. Very bad I would say. My friend Dennis Williams who was my first roommate when I moved to New York in Oct 1967 was murdered in New Orleans. What he was doing there I have no idea, nor do any of his far-flung friends. I lost touch with him years ago when he picked himself up and left New York City to live on a hippie commune that was located in upstate New York. I visited him once there on a fall day with another friend. I didn’t like it there and could not understand his leaving the lovely comfortable rent controlled apartment in Chelsea that we shared. Back then rents were cheap and people moved alot more than they do now, but still I just could not come to grips with his new life style. Unhappy always Dennis embraced the hippie movement because it gave him the freedom to finally be who he was. He could now let his hair grow, and wear colorful flowing pants and shirts with strands of beads dangling around his neck. However none of this made him any happier than he was before the sunshine came in, he was simply a miserable person unhappy in his skin and unhappy about being gay. He was the first gay man I ever knew and the first person to encourage me in my art. At night we would get stoned, listen to music and he would knit and I would make drawings. He was a kind and generous man but he could also be bitchy and harsh in his opinions about the arts and people. He would make some of our straight male friends feel so guilty about his sadness and his lack of sex and joy in his life that they would agree to have sex with him hoping it would ease some of his pain, it didn’t. After his time on the commune I totally lost touch with him until one day another friend of ours called me to tell me that Dennis had been murdered in New Orleans. He knew very little about what had happened, well actually he knew nothing at all. Dennis was simply murdered and that was that. Peter thought that maybe he had picked the wrong guy to try to pick up. “Where did this happen” “How” “Was there any reports in the newspaper.” I kept asking Peter these questions, which he answered with “we don’t know.” So that’s where it stays “we don‘t know. I keep thinking of that great line from The Third Man” when Trevor Howard tells Joseph Cotton that he was “born to be murdered.” Was the art critic and Dennis born to be murdered, was I born to be almost murdered? I should just let all of this lie, "let it alone" as Peter said to me before he got off the phone with me that day.
The images used are two drawings that I did of Dennis.